FeaturedFood is MedicineNutrition Education

A Word on High Fructose Corn Syrup


All the food-label-reading-consumers out there know that High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is found in many processed foods. Manufacturers love the stuff for four reasons:

1) Unlike sucrose (regular table sugar) it is stable in acidic food and beverages, meaning it doesn’t go bad on the shelf.

2) It is cheap to make because it is derived from plain corn.

3) It comes in a syrup form which is quick and easy to dissolve into food products.

4) It is intensely sweet, so less can be used for the same degree of sweetness as sucrose—more bang for the buck!

Chemical Structure of High Fructose Corn Syrup

Structurally, both sucrose and HFCS are made up of the same two sugar molecules, or monosaccharaides, called glucose and fructose. The difference between them is HFCS is made up of un-bonded monosaccharides at a ratio of 45% glucose and 55% fructose. That’s why it is called “high” fructose. On the other hand, sucrose is a disaccharide made up of one glucose and one fructose molecule each, bound tightly together by an oxygen atom. Just an extra 10% fructose and free, un-bonded monosaccharides is all that differentiates HFCS and sucrose.  So, why are so many food products getting hyped up lately, marketing that they no longer contain HFCS? Why does it have such a bad rap?

HFCS vs Sucrose

I was first introduced to the properties of HFCS in a biochemistry class I took in 2008. My professor suggested that HFCS blocks a receptor in our brain which signals satiety. I thought she called it the PABA receptor, but I can’t find the research to back that up, so don’t quote me. However, if that suggestion is true, it could help explain why it is possible to eat a whole sleeve of Oreos without feeling full until much later.

Digestion of High Fructose Corn Syrup

First of all, the only form of sugar which the body can use is glucose—it recognizes no other sugar as acceptable “food.” Thus, our bodies are equipped with special enzymes that help break down and convert various sugars, ingested in the form of carbohydrate starches, into glucose.  When sucrose is ingested, enzymes in our mouth and stomach must break it down into glucose and fructose in order for the liver to absorb the sugar. High fructose corn syrup is already made up of the un-bonded monosaccharides, so no extra digestion is needed in this first step. Glucose is quickly absorbed into to the liver where it is then transported to the tissues of the body. Some is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen, but most is used as immediate fuel for the brain and other tissues. Fructose, on the other hand, is slowly absorbed, requiring extra help from various enzymes to convert it to usable energy or compounds for storage in the liver.  glucose metabolism

Photo cred. www.wikipedia.org

To drive this concept home, here’s what happens in carbohydrate digestion when we eat a piece of whole-wheat bread. Chewing in the mouth combined with salivary amylase helps break the complex starch into glycogen. Down it slides to the stomach where hydrochloric acid breaks it into disaccharides, or sucrose molecules. In the small intestine the enzyme, sucrase, breaks the molecules into the monosaccharides glucose and fructose. Digestion will be slowed here because of the digestion-resisting fibers contained in the whole-wheat bread. This is a good thing, because it prevents blood sugar spikes. Glucose enters the liver where it is then dispersed to the brain and tissues for food. Some is stored in the liver and muscles for later. Fructose enters the liver where it hangs out for a while, waiting to be converted into one of three different compounds: glycogen for energy storage, triglycerides for fat storage, or free glucose for immediate energy. Most converted fructose is used for glycogen storage.


Fructose conversion to Glycogen-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fructolysis


Fructose conversion to Triglyceride-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fructolysis


Fructose conversion to glucose-http://www.medbio.info/Horn/Time%201-2/carbohydrate_metabolism%20March%202007a.htm

What is the big deal with eating too much fructose?

It must be clarified here that fructose alone, is a naturally-occurring sugar molecule found in fruits, vegetables, and honey. The unnatural characteristic of HFCS is simply that fructose exists in a higher concentration than what is found in whole foods. There are two major differences in the digestion of foods containing HFCS versus those that do not. First of all, they cause a quick spike in blood sugar since there is no digestion needed for the liver to absorb the glucose and fructose. Second, most foods containing HFCS are not high in fiber, so there’s nothing to slow the digestion in the small intestine. Third, the liver gets overwhelmed with the high ratio of fructose needing to be converted to usable energy compounds. Following, I will explain how science is finding that consuming too much fructose can possibly be harmful.

First of all, biology teaches us that if large amounts of fructose are consumed, it can spill into the colon, unabsorbed, and result in intestinal gas and loose stools. Nobody wants to experience that kind of trouble, right?

Many studies are being conducted to find the connection between HFCS and obesity. Back to my professors suggestion about HFCS blocking our normal satiety cues. Studies like this one from the Journal of the American Medical Association are backing her suggestion. Researchers are finding that fructose could block blood flow to the areas of the brain which regulate hunger, allowing for overeating.


The issues with eating too much fructose don’t stop at just the effects it can have on the brain. Remember that glucose is the only form of sugar the body recognizes as suitable for fuel? If too much fructose is consumed and the enzymes can’t convert it all to glucose, where does the surplus go? It is often stored as fat.  In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, I found many studies showing various other potential health consequences from too much HFCS consumption–everything from insulin resistance, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease to a possible link in liver failure.

As with any controversial food items, there are just as many arguments for why HFCS is NOT bad for the human body. I found one here. Ironically, the author of this study is associated with the Corn Refiners Association and works as a consultant to a food and beverage industry. So, as valid as the research may be, it is difficult to accept this work as fact when such a conflict of interest exists. Of course the researcher won’t say that HFCS is bad for us—the Corn Refiners would oust the poor soul! 😉

One thing was common among most studies trying to prove or disprove the adverse health effects of HFCS, and that was its connection to increased calorie consumption. Because it is a preservative, it’s mostly found in processed “junk food.” You might ask, does the HFCS cause over consumption of calories, or does it just happen to be a sweetener used in already high-calorie snacks? Maybe HFCS has nothing to do with consuming too many calories—or maybe it does. If my biochemistry professor was correct, then foods containing HFCS may just shut down our satiety cues, making it easier to overeat. So, knowing what I do about HFCS, what foods do I limit in our home?

Sound Advice


HFCS is added to many products shelved on the inner aisles of the grocery store like processed breads, snacks, candies, cakes, cereals, yogurts, sodas, sauces, and condiments. Does this mean we NEVER eat candy or drink soda at the Andersen house? No. However, we try to save such things for rare occasions and we don’t eat them on a regular basis. That DOES mean that you will most likely not find products containing HFCS in our cupboards. Products that we eat every day like peanut butter, crackers, bread, and yogurt are carefully selected to ensure they do not contain HFCS, or most other additives and chemicals for that matter.Hunt's Traditional Sauce Label


In the end, whole foods grown and harvested from the good earth do not contain HFCS. There’s no HFCS injected into our fresh produce, and surely it can’t be found in my precious tomatoes growing in the garden out back. Thus, if you choose to drink water over soda and cook from scratch with the whole foods that God put on this earth to nourish the bodies He gave us, you will significantly decrease your consumption of HFCS. And you will probably have a better chance at not over eating. Simple as that.garden haul 8-14-2016


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Baked GoodsRecipesVeggie-Lover Dinners

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust


Fridays are pizza night at our house, and we never get sick of it because it is so versatile. We put everything from sausage to squash on our pizzas and we have a lot of fun doing it, too! It has taken me years to finally get the dough right. If it doesn’t turn out just right for you the first time, keep trying! However, this recipe is pretty well tried-and-true, and it’s hard to fail if you are using the Bosch Mixer.


Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Healthy Pizza
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 3 (12-inch) Crusts


  • 2 Cups Water at 80°F
  • 2 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 2 teaspoons Salt
  • 4 3/4 Cup Whole Wheat Flour (approximate)


  1. Pre-heat your oven to 420°F. This will warm your kitchen and help activate the yeast. Set up your mixer with the heavy dough hook insterted.
  2. Grease 3, 12-inch round pizza pans with cooking spray. Sprinkle with corn meal (optional). 

  3. Add yeast and warm water to mixer and let it sit for 2-3 minutes. Mix olive oil and salt into the yeast water and stir a couple of times.
  4. Add half the flour to the wet ingredients and begin mixing on the lowest setting. Slowly add no more than 1/2 cup of additional flour at a time. Once the dough begins to "clean off" the sides of the bowl as it mixes, stop adding flour. Increase the mixing speed to the medium setting and mix for 7 minutes.
  5. Grease hands with a bit of oil. Pull out of the mixer three equal portions of dough, shaping into balls, and place in the center of each pizza pan.
  6. Using the palm of one hand, press the dough ball into the pan as you slowly spin the pan with your other hand. The crust should fill a 12-inch diameter pan and be about 1/2 inch thick. Doing it this way prevents extra clean-up with having to scrape dough or wipe grease from your countertop. However, if you prefer to use the rolling pin on a floured or greased surface, that works too.
  7. Poke several holes in the dough with a fork. This prevents large bubbles from forming in the crust.
  8. Pre-bake the crust for about 5 minutes before adding your sauce and toppings. Once your toppings are added, bake the pizza for another 6 to 8 minutes or until the bottom is medium-brown.
  9. You can do the rest from here. Add the sauces, toppings and cheese of your choice to make your own custom pizza. It will need another 8 to 10 minutes to finish baking.

Enjoy your pizza night!


Featured Product

(Includes affiliate links)

 Bosch Universal Mixer

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CasserolesRecipesVeggie-Lover Dinners

Black Bean Vegetable Enchiladas


Talk about a party in your mouth! These black bean enchiladas should be called “kitchen sink” enchiladas because there’s a little bit of everything stuffed inside them! Topped with a homemade (mild) enchilada sauce and sharp cheddar cheese, these are sure not to disappoint! My six year old likes to pack the leftovers for his school lunch the next day. Enjoy!

Black Bean Vegetable Enchiladas

3 1/2 Cup Black Beans, cooked and drained*
3 small zucchini squash, chopped
1 large sweet potato, chopped
2 Red Bell Peppers, chopped
1/2 large Yellow Onion, chopped
1 Cup Frozen Corn
1/4 cup Lime Juice
1 1/2 Tablespoon Garlic Salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground Cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 to 2 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
24-28 Flour Tortillas
Double Recipe Enchilada Sauce

Makes Two dozen enchiladas


1. Prepare the enchilada sauce as outlined here.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9×13 pans.

3. Chop all vegetables into pea-sized pieces. See my chopping tips to speed up this process. In a large, oiled skillet, sauté the sweet potatoes for about 5 minutes on medium-high heat before adding the rest of the vegetables. Add the zucchini, bell peppers, and onion to the skillet and cover with a lid. Let the vegetables cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. You may need to add  a splash of water now and then to prevent the vegetables from sticking to the bottom of the skillet.

4. Meanwhile, cook your flour tortillas if necessary. I use the uncooked variety for it’s additional flavor.

5. Once the vegetables are crisp tender, add the black beans and frozen corn to the skillet. Mix in the lime juice, garlic salt, ground cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and let simmer for 5 minutes.

Enchilada assembly

6. Now you are ready to start assembling the enchiladas. Pour about 1/2 cup of bean/vegetable mixture onto the center of a tortilla. Top with 1 tablespoon shredded cheese and roll it up like a burrito. Place 12 enchiladas in each pan. Top with enchilada sauce and a sprinkle of cheese. Bake, covered with foil, at 350 degrees  minutes for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 5 minutes to melt the cheese.

7. If 2 dozen enchiladas is too much for one night, leave the sauce off of one of the pans and cover it with plastic wrap AND tin foil.  Pour the enchilada sauce into an airtight container and freeze the enchiladas and the sauce separately for an easy meal later.

Enchilada and mango salsa plate

We like to eat our enchiladas with fresh peach salsa.

*Notes: I use my Instant Pot (affiliate link) to cook dry beans. If I didn’t plan ahead, canned beans work just fine. However, cooking the beans from dry takes less than an hour in the Instant Pot and saves you some cash compared to the canned beans. Just sayin’. 

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Gluten-FreeRecipesSauces and Dressings

Homemade (Mild) Enchilada Sauce


I will never buy canned enchilada sauce again. After realizing how easy it is to make my own sauce with even more flavor than the can, this is my go-to enchilada sauce!

Homemade (Mild) Enchilada Sauce

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/3 Cup Onion, chopped fine
2 cloves fresh Garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tablespoon Chili Powder
1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Oregano
15 oz. Tomato Sauce
1 Cup Chicken Stock = 1 teaspoon Better than Bouillon (Affiliate link) mixed with 1 cup water


1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté the onions in olive oil. Add the garlic for the last 30 seconds of cooking.

2. Mix in the spices and cook them with the vegetables just long enough to release their flavors, about 15 seconds.

3. Decrease the temperature to low heat. Add the tomato sauce and chicken stock. Cover with a lid and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Enchilada sauce can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 10 days. Otherwise, it stores well in the freezer until ready to use.

Makes about 3 1/2 Cups Sauce.


This post contains affiliate links.

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Appetizers/ DipsGluten-FreeRecipesSides

Peach (or Mango) Salsa


We have been harvesting peaches off our tree left and right this week! This salsa is a great way to eat a lot of peaches. Use it as a topping on fish, burritos, and salads, or as a dip with chips or crackers. You can also substitue Mangoes for the Peaches for an equally delicious salsa. Think this looks like too much chopping? Check out the notes for my best kitchen hack for chopping all these veggies super fast. Enjoy!

Peach (or Mango) Salsa

A healthy, fresh, and delicious sweet salsa.

Course Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword Peach Salsa
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 10 Cups
Calories 130 kcal
Author heartysmarty


  • 4 1/2 Cups Fresh Peaches (or Mangoes) chopped
  • 2 Avocados chopped
  • 2 Cups Red Bell Peppers chopped fine
  • 1 Small Jalapeno chopped fine
  • 1/4 Cup Green Onions chopped fine
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Cilantro chopped fine
  • 2 Tablespoons Lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Cumin


  1. Chop all produce and combine in a large bowl. (See notes for my chopping tips.)
  2. Mix in the juice and spices and stir to combine.
  3. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Recipe Notes

The only way I can get my children and husband to help me make this salsa is with my Vidalia Chop Wizard (affiliate link). I can chop 10 cups of salsa in 20 minutes flat with this baby! We have a tradition of making salsa for our neighbors every Christmas, and the task is only possible with this chopper. It is my very favorite tool in the kitchen. (Yep, even more than the Instant Pot--and that's saying something!) 

Featured Product

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 Vidalia Chop Wizard

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Berry Peachy Smoothie (With Natural Protein)


Perfect for a breakfast on-the-go, this smoothie is packed with healthy fats, natural protein, antioxidants, vitamins, calcium, iron, fiber, and probiotics to help you feel energized for the day. You will get your first full serving of vegetables and fruit for the day without much effort. The best part is that it tastes amazing too! Enjoy!

Natural Protein Berry Peachy Smoothie

Skip the expensive protein powders and get 16 grams of protein from natural ingredients in this tasty smoothie.

Course Breakfast, Drinks
Keyword Natural, Protein, Smoothie
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 2 people
Calories 217 kcal


  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 1 Cup Plain, Non-fat Greek Yogurt
  • 2 Medium Peaches fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 Cup Cucumber mostly peeled
  • 1 Cup spinach packed
  • 1 Cup Blueberries frozen
  • 2 Tablespoons Ground Flax seed


  1. Add ingredients in the order listed above. 

  2. Blend until smooth. 

  3. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

I often use kefir instead of Greek Yogurt for the added digestive benefits of probiotics. It tastes just as great.

Featured Product

(Includes Affiliate Link)

 Blendtec Total Classic Original Blender

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Lifestyle EatingNutrition Education

Spiteful Extra Scoops


Are you trying to become your spouse’s personal nutrition consultant?

You may not even realize the damage you are doing to your spouse’s relationship with food when you make comments about their eating habits. In  Intuitive Eating, (2012) (affiliate link) Evelyn Tribole describes a predisposition which her clients call the “Forget You” Diet. When spouses make condescending comments or suggestions to their partner’s food choices, it elicits a feeling of “forget you!” The partner then eats more than they normally would, just because their freedom with food has been violated and they rebel against the suggested restriction.clip_image002

Photo circa 2008 (We are getting old!!)

My husband calls this the “Eat-out-of-spite” diet. Early in our marriage, or maybe even our engagement, I distinctly remember a time when we were enjoying dessert together. It was ice cream—our favorite. When he finished his portion and started into the carton to scoop more ice cream for himself, I said something like, “You really aren’t going to eat more, are you?!” With that he took two or three additional scoops and spitefully ate more than he would have otherwise, just to show me that he was the boss of his ice cream portions. What a Rookie-Wife mistake that was!  It has been over eight years since that incident (and I am sure many others similar to it) and I am still trying to rescind those statements. It is hard to take back words which should never have been said!

I promised myself I would stop making comments about what and how much my husband ate. However, I had not completely made peace with his food choices. Sometimes, in an attempt to save him from overeating, I would eat extra portions of food even if I was not hungry. Now, what good did that do for either of us?! Other times, I stopped making some of his favorite dishes or desserts because they were too fattening in my eyes. I determined to only serve the most nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods as possible. What happened as a result? He ate his comfort foods while he was on work trips because he knew there would be none served at home. Poor guy! It must be hard to be married to a dietitian sometimes!  The “eat-out-of-spite” diet continued even though I was trying not to say anything about his food choices. However, what I was doing spoke louder than words.  And my actions were not fair. Who gave me the food police badge allowing me to approve and disapprove of what my sweet husband was eating?! In reality, he is quite the disciplined exerciser and eats a pretty balanced diet. Because I had my own problems with letting myself indulge in favorite foods, I took my self-depriving frustrations out on him. IMG_20160711_170827209_HDR

So, what can you do to help your spouse make healthier food choices, without eliciting the “Eat-out-of-spite-diet” in them? Here’s my advice (for what it is worth): Do the same which you would for any other guest at your table. You may offer plenty of food options at each meal. Involve them in your meal-planning, and let them choose some of the meals you will prepare. When eating out, you choose your food and let them choose theirs. Leave the rest up to them. Hands off! No comments. No suggestions. Let your spouse decide which dishes and how much of each they will eat. Then, enjoy the time you have with each other together. You just might be surprised to find your spouse eating much less once you finally let go of trying to micromanage their dinner plate!

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Hearty No-Bake Cookie Protein Bites


I try hard not to spike my overly sensitive blood sugar, but sometimes a girl just has to have a pick-me-up treat in the middle of a hectic day! So, I altered a typical “No-Bake Cookie” recipe into a treat that won’t make me crash 30 minutes after eating it. Even though it is made of whole ingredients it is pretty rich, so I always have to wash it down with a glass of almond milk. Enjoy!

Hearty No-Bake Cookie Protein Bites

Course Snack
Keyword Protein Balls
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 18 Bites
Author heartysmarty


  • 1/3 Cup Cocoa
  • 1/4 Cup Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Milk or Almond Milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt optional
  • 1/3 Cup Honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 Cup Natural Peanut Butter
  • 3 Cups Old Fashioned Oats


  1. Add cocoa, butter, milk, and salt to a medium saucepan. On medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a low boil, stirring constantly.   

  2. Boil for just 60 seconds, remove from heat and add honey, peanut butter, and vanilla. Stir until dissolved.

  3. Add oats and stir to combine. Let chill for 5-10 minutes.

  4. Roll cookie mix into golfball-sized bites. 

Recipe Notes

These can be frozen for up to 3 months or refrigerated for 2 weeks in an air-tight container.

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Lifestyle EatingNutrition Education

Eating Healthy In College: Part 2


In Eating Healthy in College: Part 1, I discussed some techniques to eating healthy with limited time, space, and money. I showed you some ideas of foods to stock your pantry, fridge and freezer with. Now, I will offer some meal ideas using the foods from that first post.



Breakfast options:

WW bagel, avo, tomato, canadian bacon, fried egg

Berry Smoothie and toast

Hot Rice Cereal

Hearty Whole Wheat Pancakes

  • Breakfast Burritos– Make the whole recipe and store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge to be warmed for breakfast through out the week.

Breakfast Burritos

  • Toasted Whole Wheat English Muffins topped with red bell pepper eggs and/or mashed avocados with a tomato slab.

Breakfast English Muffins

  • Cold cereal with nuts and fruit



Lunch options:

Tuna Mix with Veggies and Crackers

  • Baked potato with broccoli, cheese, Greek Yogurt, green onions

Baked potato

  • Hearty Quinoa Salad– You can make this salad out of your brown jasmine rice instead of the quinoa if needed.

Quinoa Salad


  • Greek yogurt mixed with honey, fruit, and nuts

yogurt fruit nuts

hummus and veggie snack

  • Ants on a Log- Celery filled with peanut butter and topped with raisins.

ants on a log

  • Cottage cheese with grapes or cherry tomatoes

snack cottage cheese and tomatoes

  • Cliff or Luna Bar
  • Apples and/or carrots with peanut butter


  • Stir fry with cashews over brown jasmine rice

stir fry with cashews and jasmine rice

Chili Cheese potato

Tuna mix lettce wrap

  • Chicken Caesar Salad (or any other bagged mix) with garlic cheese bread
  • Grilled or baked chicken with steamed veggie mix


Happy Studying!!

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Meals for OneRecipesSandwiches & Wraps

Avocado Panini with Red Pepper Hummus


This panini is full of fresh flavors that speak to all your hungry senses. Use my Hearty Roasted Red Pepper Hummus instead of cheese and mayo to satisfy your craving for a dairy-free lunch. Enjoy!


Avocado Panini with Red Pepper Hummus

2 Slices whole wheat bread
1/2 Avocado, sliced
1/2 Vine-Ripe tomato, sliced
3 Tablespoons Red Pepper Hummus
4 leaves spinach


Spread hummus on both slices of bread. Layer one slice of bread with avocadoes, tomatoes, and spinach. Top with second slice of bread. Grill in panini press for 1-3 minutes.

Makes 1 Sandwich


Tomato-avocado-hummus panini on grill


If you are like me, you don’t own a panini press. (Maybe Santa will bring me one this year for Christmas.) Until then, I improvise with anything flat and heavy. I literally press my sandwich between my electric griddle and a large cooking pot!

panini press

Get creative! You could press your sandwich using a skillet with a 5 pound weight inside—whatever it takes. Flip your sandwich half-way through the cooking process so it is cooked evenly through. Viola! There’s your panini-pressless-panini-maker!

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